Thoughts to encourage our clinging to Jesus…
Then Moses called for Mishael and Elzaphan, Aaron’s cousins, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel. He said to them, “Come forward and carry away the bodies of your relatives from in front of the sanctuary to a place outside the camp.” 5 So they came forward and picked them up by their garments and carried them out of the camp, just as Moses had commanded.
6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not show grief by leaving your hair uncombed* or by tearing your clothes. If you do, you will die, and the LORD’s anger will strike the whole community of Israel. However, the rest of the Israelites, your relatives, may mourn because of the LORD’s fiery destruction of Nadab and Abihu. Leviticus 10:4-6 NLT
He is gnawing at his own heart,” said Luther. “I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments=- and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. (1)
Of course, if you’re not careful you can burn yourself out in pastoral work. Sadly, thousands of pastors end up spiraling into emotional and spiritual collapse every year.
But when you take care to receive Christ’s own love and strength by means of his Spirit through his word, you have something to give to others without yourself being depleted and emptied. (2)
Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian.…
Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. (3)
I have to admit, I don’t like the words Moses spoke to Aaron and his boys. Why aren’t they allowed to grieve alongside their family? Paul talks of us weeping with those who weep (and laughing with them as they laugh as wll.) So this stupid act of their cousins should bring a time of grieving and being there for the family.
In this case, by no means in every case, they could not be there. We have to be careful of making this scenario a case study and establishing ground rules for pastoral care. I have heard that pastors must keep their distance and be above and remote from the scenario to pastor people. Based on the Romans 12 description of weeping and laughing, I have heard the opposite.
The question is, how do we become wise enough to know the difference? And how do we deal with our own pain? How do we find our peace when we encounter such trauma as pastors or people? Where do we find the wisdom to enter into the family’s pain, or not?
Senkbeil and Luther both note the high cost of enduring such trials. Trials that lead to the “gnawing at your own heart,” not being able to “have control of himself,” and “emotional and spiritual collapse” that most pastors deal with regularly. They will both find the same solution, which I will get to in a moment after I deal with Tozer – his words help clarify the discernment needed.
The idea that our message is only an invitation to peace and tranquility is the danger of trying to multi-task as a mourner and spiritual care provider. I am not saying God cannot work in these situations, but it taxes us too significantly and will lead to a message that doesn’t tie our peace to the cross. Establish enough of these trials, one after another, and the pain will break anyone. And when we fail, our words become something less, a placebo, no longer connected to the peace that is genuinely needed in a time like these.
Tozer calls the believer to carry the cross first…to forsake the world because focused on Christ whom we meet at the cross, we can be relieved of burdens and find the peace we need. This is why Senkbeil talks of letting the Spirit work through Word and Sacrament to receive Christ’s love and strength within us. It is why Luther talks of the fellowship
and the humblest maid comforting him, even as Jesus gathers His church around the Word and Sacraments. It is only connected to God’s grace that our words can do more than be a placebo. Only then is there something to give something beyond all understanding… the peace of Jesus!
Aaron and his boys were responsible for the Old Covenant sacrifices, those activities that pointed to God’s promise of peace. They weren’t forbidden to weep because God was uncaring. Rather, I think they needed to have the strength
of the promise that would enable the community to find grace and peace at the moment. They needed to remind people that God was still with them and that God was sustaining them, and even as God was ministering to them through the community, Their comfort and peace came from God, and they needed to lead people there. For us that means embracing the cross, accepting its suffering, realizing that there we meet Jesus. That is where we find life and hope, and rest. THat is why baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper take us there.. to Jesus… at the cross.
When I was a hospice chaplain, I watched nurses put aside their grief to care for the patients who passed away. We would weep together later – apart from those we had gone to care for, the patient and their family. Like Aaron and his
boys, we were the hands and voice of God for those hurting and grieving. I think that is what Moses was working from with these words. He directed them to not show grief at that moment because if they lost their way in despair, not
only would they drown, so would the community. As they focused on God… and His mercy…then they would be comforted and be able to offer the same.
This isn’t easy; this idea of keeping our eyes on Jesus in the middle of the pain. To be bluntly honest, I needed to be reminded of it presently… but it is there, at the altar with others.. that God’s peace is found, where the burdens
After the years of 2020 and 2021… that is where we need to be found… and when we are… we can minister to so many who need to know the peace of Jesus.
(1) Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 268.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 7.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” John 20:19-23 (NAB)
So rejoice my friends, based on your confession and your faith in Christ hear these words. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. adapted from the Lutheran Liturgy, Confession, and Absolution
22 We urge you, however, to confess and express your needs, not for the purpose of performing a work but to hear what God wishes to say to you. The Word or absolution, I say, is what you should concentrate on, magnifying and cherishing it as a great and wonderful treasure to be accepted with all praise and gratitude.
It is necessary to discover anew the meaning of the scandal that enables one man to say to another: “I absolve you from your sins.” In that moment—as, for that matter, in the administration of every other sacrament—the priest draws his authority, not, certainly, from the consent of a man, but directly from Christ. The I that says “I absolve you …” is not that of a creature; it is directly the I of the Lord. I feel more and more uneasy when I hear the facile way in which people designate as “ritualistic”, “external”, and “anonymous” the formerly widespread manner of approaching the confessional.
It does seem scandalous, every Sunday as I stand in from of my parishioners and guests, and dare to forgive their sins. Who am I to have just a great task. Or worse, in those times where people aren’t repentant, to hand them over to Satan for a season. ( 1 Cor. 5:5, 1 Thes. 1:20)
But who am I to dare tell Joe that his sins are forgiven? What if he is a man who cheats on his wife, or is verbally abusive toward his co-workers? What if he’s been stealing and breaking into houses, or cheating on his taxes? What if he constantly gossips about political figures?
How dare I stand there, look at him, and say, “I forgive your sins…”
Luther has it correct, the focus is not on me, but on you hearing what God desires you to hear. You are freed from the bondage you put yourself into by sinning. The eternal consequences have been transferred to Jesus on the Cross, they are not yours. You need to cherish these words, value them as life-giving, life-restoring. It is a spiritual form of CPR and first aid.
Pope Benedict seems to resonate with these words as well, as he discusses the delegation of Christ’s authority (see Matthew 28:18) to forgive sins is given to the pastor to use, for the benefit of God’s people. THe “I” there is no longer dustin the sinner, but it is Jesus speaking to you.
His authority, His message, His decision.
You are forgiven.
It is finished.
For by the stripes Jesus bore, you have been healed!
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Discussion THought of the Day:
9 O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. Psalm 48:9 (NLT)
7 Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. Isaiah 64:7 (NLT) \
436 God’s love for his creatures is so boundless and our response to it should be so great that, when Holy Mass is being said, time ought to stand still.
Without question, it is the high point of my week. It is where time does seem to stand still, where the struggles of life seem to be of absolutely no matter. It is an experience that is “otherworldly”. It is definitely beyond logic or reason, and it’s beauty and peace cannot be explained. Right now, because it is more frequent, I rejoice, my days seem brighter. Because of that, I would say I am addicted to it….
A simple move, my hand placing in another’s hand Something so precious, and words softly spoken, that change everything.
“Take and eat, the Body of Christ, broken for YOU.”
As I say these words, some hear them so well their body’s change, the relax, they smile, some even weep with joy.
It is that moment, as they receive the gift of the Sacrament, that life makes sense. The presence of God is made clear, and that changes everything.
It is not that discussing God’s presence and praying with near strangers over breakfast is less, or praying at the bedside of someone having surgery, or helping two at great odds with each other know God’s peace isn’t as great of a moment. All of ministry, all of life is filled with the presence of God. We come to know peace in all things, in all places. His grace is needed in all those places.
But those are moments in this world, and there is something about the sacraments, about baptism and absolution and the Lord’s Supper that gives us a moment of heaven. It is, as St. Josemaria says, the moment time stands still. A moment of clear communion with God. It’s the time where our pleas and cries for God’s loving mercy are answered. What is a brief second becomes without measure.
Over the last week, I’ve come across a word a number of times, kenosis. It means the “emptying”. The moment where everything in life is shed. It is the description of Christ, emptying himself in order to become a servant. As we receive the Body of Christ, that happens to us as well, all is stripped away, save Him. Except His love. His mercy, His peace. It is the stripping away of sin, of all unrighteousness, It is the reliving of our baptism, of our being united, forged to Jesus Christ.
Emptied of all that isn’t God, we find out how we have been united to Him, How He makes us whole.
God’s glory, revealed to us as love conquers it all. All our sin, all our brokenness, all our rebellion and trauma. It is pictured in the Old Testament, where God gathered the leaders into His presence, having lefft Egypt far behind… and as they feast in His presence.
Receiving the Body of Christ is a great joy, as is see those who God called to that moment. The meditation and thought of that moment… that alone should compel us to know Him more deeply, to hear the stories of those He’s sustained, especially those in scripture. The sacraments do that, they help us realize our dependence, our need on the presence of God, and reveal to us that He is here.
Such is why i love to dwell on the Eucharist, and why such a little thing is such a tremendous blessing to me. tO see this happen to 50, 60, 100 people, is amazing. ( If there is a reason I am envious of those with larger churches, it is perhaps this!)
The promises of God, delivered to us, that we dwell in peace.
(and we who serve are blessed to deliver it!)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1681-1682). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable. 5 Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (TEV)
Although few would have denied that it was theoretically possible for laypeople to achieve sanctity, fewer still proposed sanctity in the world as an achievable ideal. A more intense spiritual life in a young man or woman, or even a desire to serve God seriously , was normally taken as an unequivocal sign of a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life. Few priests encouraged laypeople to make a serious effort to achieve sanctity in their ordinary lives. This reflected a practical conviction that the best to be hoped for from lay men and women was the fulfillment of their basic spiritual duties and the obligations of their state in life. Sanctity in the middle of the world might be an interesting topic for theological speculation, but it was rarely preached about and even less frequently actively pursued. In fact, most people who heard about it from Escrivá in the mid -1930s thought the notion was crazy, if not heretical. (1)
The above quote in blue is taken from a new book I am reading, It is the biography of a servant of God, a man who didn’t set out to be a minister, never mind to head a movement.The quote is talking about his mentor, his friend, the one whom he would succeed.
And it resonates deeply and clearly with me, I have seen people who have been told that ministry is the role only of the ordained, the clergy, the group I, for better or for worse am part. That people shouldn’t read the Bible in Church, that they can’t assist, that they are, for the most part, just dumb sheep, who need an occasional feeding on SUnday Mornings, and make sure they are visited when in the hospital or in jail, or have food put on their table.
And if you’ve been told that, that all being a Christian is, is going to church and occasionally maybe a Bible Study. That you cannot be holy, because you are a sinner, you need to know this. You were lied to, and something has been stolen from you. If you’ve been told you work as a Christian is to be a faithful spouse, a good parent, a diligent employee or employer, and that is all that God expects you to be, to fulfill your vocation, again, I apologize. You were lied to, Maybe not intentionally, but nevertheless, that which you heard was not the truth.
The scripture in red from Peter confirms it, you are called to minister, to serve as God’s priests. To do something spiritual.
Right in those vocations, right where God has placed you. It is not though, a meaningless ministry, it is not a non-spiritual ministry or service.
It is a spiritual service, it is a place where God put you – to represent Him, to serve Him, to be in prayer about, to proclaim His love, through your words, through your thoughts, through you deeds. Being holy is what you are called to, right there in your seat where you are reading this. RIght there as you minister to your children, to you family, in your work places. God has sent you there to sanctify them, to make those places holy, places where people can meet God.
It is holy work, it needs to be bathed in prayer and meditation, it requires spiritual sacrifice, and growth and spiritual maturity. It is setting it all apart, as a place where we meet God.
It is as holy and as needed to make these places holy places. to bring holiness to those in them, even as much as it is necessary to do so in a sermon, or when distributing the sacraments. Does that diminish the Lord’s Supper, or Baptism, or Confession and Absolution? Does that negate the ministry of the ordained? No, not at all, for those very things empower and enflame our other holy work. Those things convince us of God’s desire to be there.
It is a shared ministry. All of us, working alongside. All of us, depending on God’s crafting us into a people, guiding us to walk in the good works God has planned for us. A ministry, all of us working spiritually, setting everything we do apart to God.
(1) Coverdale, John F. (2014-07-09). Saxum: The Life of Alvaro del Portillo (Kindle Locations 154-157). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 and Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. The LORD called to him from the mountain and told him to say to the Israelites, Jacob’s descendants: 4 “You saw what I, the LORD, did to the Egyptians and how I carried you as an eagle carries her young on her wings, and brought you here to me. 5 Now, if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own people. The whole earth is mine, but you will be my chosen people, 6 a people dedicated to me alone, and you will serve me as priests.” 7 So Moses went down and called the leaders of the people together and told them everything that the LORD had commanded him. 8 Then all the people answered together, “We will do everything that the LORD has said,” and Moses reported this to the LORD. Exodus 19:3-8 (TEV)
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23 (TEV)
377 The Lord wants a definite apostolate from you, such as catching those one hundred and fifty-three big fish—not others—taken on the right-hand side of the boat. And you ask me: How is it I know myself to be a fisher of men, can live in contact with many companions, and be able to distinguish to whom I should direct my specific apostolate, but still catch nobody? Is it Love that is lacking? Do I lack interior life? Listen to the answer from Peter’s lips, on the occasion of that other miraculous draught:—”Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” In the name of Jesus Christ, begin again. And being strengthened, rid yourself of that indolence! (1)
From the very beginning, God has determined that those whom he has saved, those He has delivered are special to them. They have a special role in the world, acting as priests, serving Him, interceding for others. This is done in various ways, as the Spirit determines, as the Spirit distributes the charisms, the gifts described in such places as 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12. Many of those gifts are simple, others more visible, all are miraculous. Not because of what we see, but because God has rescued us, placed us in specific roles, specific vocations, all to bear witness to His love. That is as much the miracle – the way the Holy Spirit coordinates all of this, gifts, people, places,
We are all to share a hope that we have come to know, as we realize what God has done for us. We all have to be ready to explain the reason we have hope – which for most of us strikes fear into our very core.
I don’t think it is because of our fear of persecution, whether that being tortured or being thought not relevant. I think it is because we are afraid to reveal how dependent we are on God, to reveal how precious this intimate relationship is to us.
But that is exactly what they need to know! That is exactly where they need to be, exploring how high, how wide, how deep is the love of God is for them, for their family, for all who have wandered, or run far off from God. They need to know God desires that they not be lost, not be wandering, but that they come home…..This is our vocation, our mission, our apostolate…..
He has sent us all out to let them know this, to call them home, to bring them hope…..
So where is Jesus taking you to this day? Where is He sending you, even as the Father sent Him? Where is your mission field this week, who will you encounter? Have you prayed for them yet? Have you prayed that you would hear God’s guidance? Have you considered your baptism, the Body and Blood of Christ which you received yesterday, the gospel that was shared with you? These are all the things, these means of grace, that will guide you, the very thing that will help you know He is with you….
As you walk with God, as you go to the places He sends you, you will realize something I quoted from Pope Francis yesterday,,
“Our mission, then— the mission that frightens us and makes us offer excuses like the ones we hear from the lips of the reluctant prophets in the scriptures— is to evangelize, to shepherd the faithful people of God. And that mission establishes us in our vocation. In calling us to that mission, Jesus gives us solidity in the depths of our hearts: he establishes us as pastors and makes that our identity. In our visits to the sick, in our administration of the sacraments, in our teaching of the catechism, and in all the rest of our priestly activity, we are collaborating with Christ in establishing Christian hearts. At the same time and by that same means, that is, by the work we do, the Lord is establishing and rooting our hearts in his own.” (2)
Lord have mercy on us all, as we share His mercy with those He has sent us too!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1720-1728). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Pope Francis; Jorge M Bergoglio (2013-11-18). Open Mind, Faithful Heart (pp. 39-40). The Crossroad Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.